Restless autumn: Brothers, sisters,
parents, homework, and television
closed in around me, seventeen,
but when I reached out to push them away,
they were too far away to touch.
I had to move out
through the musty front hall and heavy
oak door to find space enough
for me to reach out toward the boundaries
of what I would become.
Long arcades of elms: From an airplane,
green fuzz for a child to finger flat;
on a map nothing at all,
but from the sidewalk a universe
of leaf-shadow, leaf-song--at night, endless
echoing, branch-vaulted darkness, always a breeze
to carry the sounds of home away behind me.
Wind river sweeps leaves and stars
past my head, and me,
I drift out of myself
and have to catch up
by some invisible silken anchor line
to the body with the dark coarse hair
striding slowly through me.
Endless stream of wind-rush
fills me up, as the world
fills up our idea of it.
Houses, lit up or dark, silent
or, wind-walkers themselves, adding muffled
TV and piano sounds to the wind's song,
each house so utterly strange
that it is no longer strange, but only
mine, as a child owns anthill and stars;
to each car a face that looks at me,
Adam, naming the new beasts,
claiming my neighborhood, my universe,
by being it all;
the only world this hugeness
I fill up, nothing to do
with school and newspapers,
admitting, perhaps, a few friendships,
promise in one girl's smile, another's
looking back over her shoulder,
the companionship of Tolstoy's people...
Tell the cat, brushing past my legs,
my thoughts arched against the leaves,
tell the unexpected passing person
(to whose hello I reply as royalty waving
to the cheering world from my parade of dreams),
tell the whole symphony: "BRAVO! ENCORE!"
Tell a world of strangers it belongs to me
by virtue of the wind I carry as a song
in and about the head called my name,
song that gusts in and out of me,
swirling up piles of dry words,
turning them to song.
Sometimes I sing aloud as I walk,
block after block, march of--something
about the road leading onward,
mountains and oceans: trifles.
I want to take it all (houses,
strangers, my mom & dad, brothers,
sisters, kids in school who don't
like me or, same thing, don't know me)...
And I did, I guess, my song
an embrace: I hugged everyone.
And everything and everyone
knew it had been hugged.
I flinch from the sweetness
of mongrel wind, licking my cheek.
And I knew it knew.
A few words, left over, not yet snatched up
by my song: How will I ever
tell everyone what I am, what I feel, know?
I chat out loud
with God or myself, not sure which
is which or if that is even a question.
I say "Thanks, God" and that's not
quite it, so I say something else.
I think thoughts and watch them crumble
faster than I can complete them:
Old yellowed newsprint held up
to a blowtorch.
I knew all I needed to know,
except I didn't know I knew
what I knew, seemed over the years
to lose it. Or it lost hold
of me. I grew slippery, trying so hard
to be for others what I knew myself to be,
to give it to a friend or lover,
to recapture it with drugs or a landscape
or a religion. Or words.
Even now, knowing what I knew and know,
on walks I find myself trying to remember
what it's like to embrace the universe,
then think: I can't feel that anymore,
Tonight, it occurred to me:
We live in a vast, friendly embrace
I discovered when I put it
where it already was, and ever since,
I've kept trying to turn the key in the lock
after the door is ready to spring wide open.
Tonight I walk in a different city, elmless,
leaves enough, but no wind, only the songs
of traffic. I keep reaching, trying to embrace,
to convince myself that something has happened
in the spiritual by getting the world
of newspapers to prove it, getting the candle
to illuminate the sun, getting a million
readers for my poems, raves from the New York Times,
perfumed letters from hysterical readers, telling me
my poems have changed their lives and
am I married?
I already saved by that embrace
the only world that can be saved. My effort
to unlock what is open jams the door,
leaving you no way to return my love.
I've been too busy reaching to feel
an answering touch.
We fill up with hate and frustration,
failed love, which can only fail
when we fail to notice its success.
I have given you all I needed to give
in exactly the way it needed to be given,
and you got it. Right here, right now.
So there will be no need to blow up the planet
to show each other how much love
we must have failed to give
to generate so much hate.
I have no idea how the sun
is compatible with guttering candles,
or how time is eternity's shadow's play
or how to end a poem
that has no ending.